It's been three years since the original Nidhogg was released, being a pixilated dueling mash of colors and weirdly textured environments that made people try hard at fencing to a degree. Now in present day, we've got a sequel with a revised look, new mechanics, and a fresh soundtrack. But does the sequel hold up to the indie fandom that was the original?
Nidhogg 2 is an arcade-style fighting game where two opponents face each other in an attempt to beat the other and make it to the end of the stage. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy when it comes to a beat 'em up where precision weapons and strategy are involved. The original gameplay is still here as you'll use swords to duel it out in what is essentially a weapons-laced version of tug-of-war. Each player is working to get to the other side that their opponent controls, with a bar at the top indicating who is in control and how far they need to go on either side.
What makes this game interesting is that a new set of weapons have been added to both player's armory, meaning you now have some variety in which you can vanquish your foe. When you die, your opponent will start running to their side, but you will eventually reappear with a new weapon in hand. This can be a dagger, a bow and arrows, a broadsword, and more. Each one has their own strength and weaknesses, with the broadsword definitely on the stronger end and the bow on the weaker.
You can still perform takedowns in Nidhogg 2, but the gore of the original has been cartoonishly covered up as it doesn't quite match the feeling. It's like playing the original Mortal Kombat for the blood and gore of the fatalities, then getting MKII and discovering the deaths look like those from Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts. There are moments here where I felt like I was playing a weird version of Splatoon and it just doesn't work the way I think the designers were hoping for.
It's a weird juxtapose to have a game look great from an artistic standpoint but look mediocre from a gaming standpoint at the same time. It isn't jarring or unsettling by any means, but it does take me out of the action on occasion as I'm looking at what feels like a kiddie version of what I previously imagined to be a bloody fight to the death. But looking on the bright side of the design, the graphics are lovely to look at as you make your way through the ten different levels you can fight in, adding a little bit of depth and beauty to the chaos.
Nidhogg 2 is a treat to play as it offers an updated experience to what was already a fun game. But it still feels like they went three steps forward and one step back. Regardless, it makes for a mighty fun two-player fight or a party game where the loser swaps out, which I don't recommend doing shots to when you lose unless you want to get stupid drunk. There be problems in the game, but it's easy to look past the flaws when you're having fun.